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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AS YOU LIKE IT
at the Delacorte Theatre

FOREST IN THE PARK
By MATT WINDMAN

  Jordan Tice and Stephen Spinella/ Ph: Joan Marcus

On June 18, the Public Theater held a one-night presentation of Romeo & Juliet at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park with an extremely starry cast led by Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Christopher Walken. Since it was a benefit gala, ticket prices started at a whopping $1500. In keeping with Shakespeare in Park tradition, the Public originally expected to give out a number limited of standby tickets, but the event sold out entirely.

Those hoping to enjoy some less costly Shakespeare this summer, which happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the extremely beloved Shakespeare in the Park series, will have to settle for Daniel Sullivan’s enjoyable but rather lackluster staging of the warmhearted pastoral comedy As You Like It, which offers a decent but far less eye-popping cast.

As You Like It begins with Rosalind (the always terrific, absolutely dynamic Lily Rabe) and Orlando (an appropriately emotional David Furr), who fall in love on first sight, getting banished from the duke’s court. Joined by her cousin Celia (played tenderly by Renee Elise Goldsberry) and the clown Touchstone (a broadly comical Oliver Platt), Rosalind dresses up like a man for protection and heads to the Forest of Arden, where her father already lives in exile with a band of men including the melancholy Jacques (Tony-winner Stephen Spinella).

Sullivan’s production is set in the pre-Civil War American South. At first, the stage is dominated by an imposing log fence and a lookout tower commanded by gun-toting soldiers. When the move to Arden occurs, the fence splits apart to reveal a more attractive forest setting. For additional atmosphere, actor/comedian Steve Martin has composed an original bluegrass score, which is played by a live band.

As You Like It bears structural and thematic similarities to the Sondheim musical Into the Woods, which will be performed later this summer at the Delacorte, making them a nice pair. But all things considered, the Public Theater could have made a more daring programming choice than As You Like It, which has received numerous productions in recent years.

As Rosalind, Rabe brings out the same aggressive streak and humorous tone that made her Portia in The Merchant of Venice so thrilling. But for those who saw that breakout performance in the park or during its Broadway transfer, it’s rather like watching that performance all over again.

Spinella makes for an eloquent and sensitive Jacques, and the production goes to unusual lengths to stress the character’s militant vegetarianism.

 


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